How to Keep Your Sewer Sanitary Line Clean and Clear

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated December 17, 2021
Father with a toddler boy cooking
Photo: Halfpoint / Adobe Stock

You only want to use the words “backed up” to describe your digital files, not your sewer line

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Anytime you turn on the sink, run the washing machine, or flush the toilet, that water runs through a pipe out of your house and into the city sewer or your septic tank. If it gets clogged, all of your drains and toilets will get backed up, too. No, thank you! 

Learn how to prevent clogs in your bathroom and sewer line to avoid an unpleasant plumbing problem or expensive sewer line replacement or repair costs with these five tips.

1. Keep Garbage Out of the Drains

The best way to avoid sewer line clogs is to be careful of what goes through it. Avoid putting any grease, oil, coffee grounds, eggshells, vegetable peels, or fat down your kitchen drain. 

In bathrooms, avoid flushing items like diapers, feminine hygiene products, wipes (even those marked flushable), or paper towels down your toilets. Install drain screens to prevent hair from slipping down the drains and clogging up the pipes.

All these items can create a clogged sewer line if they get snagged in the pipes. If the clog gets bad enough, you might have to repair or replace the line.

2. Give the Garbage Disposal a Break

The garbage disposal isn’t designed to turn your salad scraps into a smoothie. In fact, some items like celery, carrot and potato peels, and goopy pasta don’t break up well in the disposal. Instead, they make the perfect material to start a clog. Use the compost for these things.

Instead, scrape your cutting board and dinner plates into the compost bin and use the sink and garbage disposal for a final rinse.

3. Use an Enzyme Cleaner

Put an enzyme cleaner down the line monthly to help break things up and keep the water flowing. Enzymes are biodegradable and eat away at the gunk clogging up the drain. They won’t corrode your pipes like other types of cleaners might. Plus, liquid drain cleaners can be toxic, hazardous to breathe, and often don’t even clear the clog from the pipes.

Enzyme cleaners are available in the plumbing aisle of discount or hardware stores. It costs about $50 for 100 treatments. Mix the enzyme powder with hot water and let it go down the drain. The enzymes will eat away at any organic material, like fats, oils, grease, vegetable peels, and coffee grounds.

4. Get Your Sewer Line Professionally Cleaned

Golden faucet with running water
Photo: / Adobe Stock

It’s a good idea to get your sewer line cleaned every year, especially if you’ve had backups in the past. A sewer maintenance professional might use a camera to see down the line, inspect the pipes, and recommend a treatment. Common options are snaking or hydro jetting.

Snaking the line might be the right choice if your pipes are older and a bit fragile. It pulls out clogs to get the water moving again, but it doesn’t clean them 100% so the clog will ultimately form again. Snaking costs the plumber’s hourly rate of $45 to $200 on average.

Hydro jetting gives the insides of your pipes a more thorough cleaning than snaking. It uses a high-pressure water blast to clear out clogs, tree roots, or pipe scale. However, this process isn’t suitable for homes with older and weaker pipes because the pressure can damage them. Hydro jetting costs $350 to $600 on average.

5. Know Where Your Sewer Line Runs

All the plumbing fixtures in your home drain to the same sewer pipe, and then out of your house. It’s important to know where that pipe runs so you can keep an eye out for problems. The sewer pipe is wider than other pipes in your house, usually 4 inches in diameter. You should be able to locate it in the lowest level of your home, usually in the basement or utility room with a screw-off top. 

From there, the line typically runs straight out to the street. If you’re not sure, ask your plumber next time they’re out. You’ll want to keep an eye out for signs of a sewer line problem, including:

  • Water in the house near the sewer pipe

  • Any unexplained soggy grass or indentations along the line in the yard

  • Tree roots along the line

If you spot any of the above issues, have a plumber near you inspect your sewer line ASAP. Annual sewer line inspections can also catch any problems with tree roots invading the line.

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